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FANTASY FOOTBALL IN-SEASON FEATURES

Free Agent Forecast - Week 8
Paul Sandy
October 21, 2008
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QUARTERBACKS

1. Jeff Garcia, Buccaneers
Rising ValueThe Forecast drove the Garcia bandwagon last week but few fantasy owners hopped on. The veteran QB is still available in over 60% of leagues. With a 310-yard, 1-TD effort against the Seahawks on Football Night in America, that should change quickly. The only questions surrounding Garcia were in regards to his status as the starter and whether Brian Griese would reclaim the job. On the heels of two blowout victories, those concerns can be put to rest. Garcia will start against the beleaguered Cowboys this week. The Dallas defense made Marc Bulger look good last week and that’s saying something.

Availability: Owned in ~37% of leagues.
Forecast guidance: Plug and play Garcia this week if you’ll be without Aaron Rodgers, Jay Cutler or Kyle Orton.

2. Matt Cassel, Patriots
Rising ValueCassel lit up the Broncos in primetime on Monday night. He ended the evening with three touchdowns and seemed to find a rhythm with wideouts Randy Moss and Wes Welker. After Tom Brady blew out his knee, Cassel was snapped up in most leagues. A series of disappointing efforts led to his demise and mass fantasy dumping. He’s now available in over 30% of leagues. If you’ll be without your regular starter this week or just want to add some depth, Cassel is a fine pickup. The Patriots face the Rams.

Availability: Owned in ~69% of leagues.
Forecast guidance: Cassel is worth a roster spot in all leagues.

3. Ryan Fitzpatrick, Bengals
Bye Week RescueQBs are dropping like flies and a few good ones are on bye this week. If you’re in a deep league, you might be forced to scrape the bottom of the barrel. Way, way down on the floor of that barrel you’ll find Fitzpatrick. The backup to Carson Palmer (elbow) will get another start this week. Fitzpatrick hasn’t thrown more than one touchdown in any game this season. However, the Forecast is hopeful he’ll deliver better stats this week against the Texans, who gave up a big game to Detroit’s Dan Orlovsky in Week 7. Houston’s secondary has been vulnerable to the pass. They rank 17th in pass defense. Look for Fitzpatrick to finish with around 200 yards and one or two scores.

Availability: Owned in ~5% of leagues.
Forecast guidance: If you’re desperate for a one-week QB option, give Fitzpatrick a look.

RUNNING BACKS

1. Justin Fargas, Raiders
Rising ValueIf you can’t get your hands on Deuce McAllister or Mewelde Moore (both owned in over 70% of leagues), perhaps Justin Fargas is still lingering on your waiver wire. Fargas had three times the number of carries as rookie Darren McFadden on Sunday. Either the team doesn’t trust McFadden yet or he’s not fully healthy. In any case, Fargas is clearly the #1 option for the Raiders. I’d hate to have to trust him as a RB2 every week but given the number of touches he gets, Fargas deserves a roster spot in all leagues and is worth consideration as a spot starter or flex play.

Availability: Owned in ~61% of leagues.
Forecast guidance: Fargas should be owned in all leagues.

2. Ahman Green, Texans
Bye Week RescueThe Forecast gave Green the green light last week as a bye week rescue option. He rewarded savvy owners who started him with a respectable effort on Sunday, carrying the ball 14 times for 62 yards and a touchdown. Although he’s playing second fiddle to rookie Steve Slaton, Green seems to get all the touches on every third offensive series. That’s enough work for him to merit consideration when the matchup is favorable as it was last week against the Lions . . . and as it will be again this week against the Bengals. Cincinnati gave up three touchdowns to Mewelde Moore on Sunday.

Availability: Owned in ~28% of leagues.
Forecast guidance: Green has another favorable matchup this week and is worth a look as a spot starter.

3. Aaron Stecker, Saints
Injury ReplacementWhile Deuce McAllister stands to gain the most with Reggie Bush on the sidelines, he’s unlikely to carry the full load. This is after all a guy who is coming off surgeries on both knees. Look for the team to give Aaron Stecker a substantial amount of touches. What about Pierre Thomas? The Forecast showed Thomas some love early in the season when he was getting the goal line work. But that job has gone to McAllister, who has a better nose for short yardage situations. Stecker on the other hand is the best receiver of the group and we all know how much Drew Brees loves to throw to his RBs. Don’t be surprised if Stecker gets 15 touches per game as a change of pace / third-down back. After Bush went down with a knee injury last season Stecker posted three straight quality fantasy performances (including two 2-TD games).

Availability: Owned in ~1% of leagues.
Forecast guidance: With Reggie Bush out, Stecker could see more carries and targets in the passing game.

4. Cedric Benson, Bengals
Rising ValueAs predicted, Chris Perry lost the starting job to Cedric Benson. And although Benson didn’t do much in his first game as Cincinnati’s primary ball carrier, he’s worth owning in all leagues. The former first round draft pick of the Bears amassed 52 yards on 14 carries against the Steelers. The outlook is much better this week against the Texans. Houston has allowed the second-most rushing scores in the NFL. If your stable of RBs has been ravaged by injury or just could use a little more depth, Benson is a fine target. He’ll have plenty of opportunities to prove he wasn’t just another first round RB bust.

Availability: Owned in ~37% of leagues.
Forecast guidance: Benson is starting and should be owned in all leagues.

5. Leon Washington, Jets
Bye Week RescueWashington has the matchup of all matchups this week against the Chiefs. Kansas City is woeful against the run. In their last two games, the Chiefs have allowed 583 all-purpose yards and seven touchdowns to RBs. Although Washington hasn’t been getting enough touches to merit consideration on most weeks, the Forecast likes his chances against what might be the worst run defense the NFL has seen in quite some time. Washington scored his first rushing touchdown of the year last week against the Raiders. There’s a decent chance he gets his second score in Week 8.

Availability: Owned in ~24% of leagues.
Forecast guidance: Consider plugging and playing Washington if you’re light on RBs this week.

6. LaMont Jordan, Patriots
Injury ReplacementAfter a mamoth first half on Monday night, Sammy Morris was pulled from the game with a knee injury. He didn’t have a carry in the second half. The severity of the injury isn’t known at this point, but if this season has taught us anything it’s that knee sprains and other knee injuries can put a player on the shelf for several weeks. With Laurence Maroney on IR, the team could turn to Jordan if Morris misses time. Jordan, has been nursing a calf injury so check the status of New England’s backfield this week. Rookie Benjarvus Green-Ellis would be the RB to own if neither Jordan nor Morris can play.

Availability: Owned in ~6% of leagues.
Forecast guidance: Jordan and Green-Ellis are ownable in all leagues if Morris misses time.

7. Jamaal Charles, Chiefs
SleeperLarry Johnson’s value took another hit when news broke that he had another run in with the law at a Kansas City night club while the Chiefs were on bye. With the hard line the league is taking on off-the-field conduct, it’s probably not a matter of if Johnson will be suspended but when. The remaining RBs in Kansas City’s stable are Kolby Smith and Jamaal Charles. Neither will save your team but if you’re making a pickup purely on potential, go with Charles. Although Smith received more carries this week against the Titans while Johnson was serving out a team-enforced suspension, Charles has more untapped potential. The rookie is a versatile player who does well catching balls out of the backfield and has the breakaway speed needed to go the distance. That’s important considering the Chiefs will be playing from behind a lot this season.

Availability: Owned in ~18% of leagues.
Forecast guidance: Charles is worth a look in deeper leagues.

WIDE RECEIVERS

1. Antonio Bryant and Joey Galloway, Buccaneers
Rising ValueThe Tampa offense is clicking and with a favorable upcoming schedule, now is a good time to own a piece of the team’s passing game. Antonio Bryant recorded six receptions for 115 yards and a touchdown against the Seahawks on Sunday. This follows three games with relatively disappointing stats, but the Forecast is optimistic Bryant can continue to flourish with Garcia under center. Joey Galloway has missed every game since the opener with a foot injury. However, he’s due back soon and based on last season’s rapport with Garcia, he deserves a roster spot in all leagues in anticipation of his return. Both Bryant and Galloway will have added incentive this week as they face Dallas—a team that gave up on them.

Availability: Owned in ~34% and ~52% of leagues respectively.
Forecast guidance: Bryant and Galloway are worth a look in all leagues.

2. Kevin Curtis, Eagles
SleeperLike Galloway, Curtis is another former 1,000-yard receiver who is slated to return to action this week. Curtis may have been ready to return two weeks ago, but the team opted to use the bye to give him more time to recover from sports hernia surgery. Philadelphia’s passing started the season in top form, ran into some stiff competition and faltered, and finally bounced back before the bye. Their schedule looks tasty three of the next four weeks with games against the Falcons, Seahawks, Giants and Bengals. What can you expect from Curtis? Based on last year, he’s certainly capable of serving as a WR3 on any fantasy squad. Although he’ll post the occasional dud, most weeks he’ll get you 4-6 receptions with 60-70 yards with the added potential for a monster performance. 

Availability: Owned in ~41% of leagues.
Forecast guidance: Acquire Curtis in anticipation of his return.

3. Josh Morgan, 49ers
SleeperMorgan was a beast during the preseason and showed up on many an owner’s sleeper list. Unfortunately, he got a staph infection, lost weight and wasn’t much of a factor until Sunday against the Giants. In that game, QB J.T. O’Sullivan threw Morgan’s way 10 times—more than any other 49ers receiver. Now that he’s fully healthy, Morgan has solidified himself as a starter in Mike Martz’s pass-happy offense. There’s an excellent chance he leads the team in receiving for the remainder of the year. San Francisco has one of the most favorable schedules remaining with games against the Seahawks, Cardinals, Rams (twice), Cowboys, Bills, Jets and Dolphins. Acquire Morgan now with your sights set on a big second half of the season.

Availability: Owned in ~2% of leagues.
Forecast guidance: Morgan has huge upside and deserves a look in all leagues.

4. Donnie Avery, Rams
Rising ValueThe Forecast identified Avery as an up and comer last week. He delivered, posting five receptions for 65 yards and a touchdown. With each week, it’s becoming clearer that Torry Holt has gotten old quickly. Avery, the first WR taken in the 2008 draft, represents the future. Once a dreadful team for fantasy purposes, the Rams have shown life under interim coach Jim Haslett. Their resurgent offense makes Avery a promising free agent target for owners in all sizes and scoring systems. And with upcoming games against the Patriots and Cardinals, Avery is playable in deeper leagues right now.

Availability: Owned in ~13% of leagues.
Forecast guidance: Avery is the top WR on the resurgent Rams; he’s ownable in all leagues.

5. Mike Furrey, Lions
Rising ValueWith Roy Williams out of the picture, Furrey has returned to fantasy relevance. Owners remember him as the guy who came out of nowhere to catch 98 passes in 2006. Don’t expect him to approach those numbers this season, but recognize his potential to be a consistent possession target for the Lions. He caught six passes for 89 yards against the Texans. Although the final score might have you believe otherwise, the game was a blowout. Look for Detroit to continue their habit of playing from behind, which should make Furrey a decent option especially in PPR leagues.

Availability: Owned in ~1% of leagues.
Forecast guidance: Furrey merits a roster spot in deep leagues.

6. Reggie Williams, Jaguars
SleeperOwners in need of a deep sleeper this week at the WR position should consider adding Jacksonville’s Reggie Williams. The team’s leading wideout, Matt Jones, begins a suspension effective immediately. He’ll miss the next three games. Williams has a prime opportunity to enter the lineup and make some noise. Jacksonville has a juicy upcoming schedule with games against the Browns, Bengals and Lions. Williams, who started the season slowly because of a hamstring injury, should be fully healthy coming of a bye. If you’re in a deep league and need an emergency fill-in this week, Williams is worth a shot.

Availability: Owned in ~16% of leagues.
Forecast guidance: Roll the dice with Williams if you’re shorthanded at the WR position.

TIGHT ENDS

1. Bo Scaife, Titans
Bye Week RescueScaife has posted a minimum of 48 yards or scored a touchdown in three of his last four games. Outside of Justin Gage, the Titans don’t have any wide receivers that are reliable, which means they’re relying on Scaife and Alge Crumpler. Schaife leads all Tennessee players with 23 receptions this season. Although Gage is scheduled to return this week, the Forecast sees another decent outing for Scaife against the Colts. Indianapolis ceded a touchdown to Green Bay TE Donald Lee in Week 7.

Availability: Owned in ~59% of leagues.
Forecast guidance: Scaife is a good play this week and is otherwise a decent spot starter.

2. Billy Miller, Saints
Injury ReplacementEarly indications are that Jeremy Shockey might miss this week’s game against the Chargers. After Sunday’s disappointing loss to the Panthers, Shockey questioned whether he may have returned too soon. If Miller gets the start, he’ll be a nice plug and play option against the Chargers, who have been notoriously poor at stopping TEs this season. So far they’ve allowed more fantasy points to TEs than any team in the league. 

Availability: Owned in ~7% of leagues.
Forecast guidance: Consider starting Miller this week if Shockey doesn’t make the trip to London.

KICKER

1. Matt Bryant, Buccaneers
Bye Week RescueBryant has been a model of consistency this season. He’s connected on multiple field goals in every game save one this season. He’s averaging 8.4 points per game. Tampa faces a Dallas team that has allowed 22 or more points in each of their last four games. Opposing kickers scored double-digit points in all but one of those four matchups. Bryant looks like a strong play this week.

Availability: Owned in ~33% of leagues.
Forecast guidance: Start Bryant this week if your regular kicker is on bye.

DEFENSE / SPECIAL TEAMS

1. New York Jets
Bye Week RescueThe Chiefs were relatively close to getting shut out in two straight home games. Now they’ll travel to the Meadowlands this week to face the Jets. New York’s defense hasn’t been flashy but they’ve held opponents to 20 points or less in four out of six games this season. The Jets also have the ability to rack up fantasy points incrementally with sacks. They’re tied for fourth in the NFL in the category. Look for a strong performance this week against the Chiefs who have the look of a team that’s mailing it in. If “Gang Green” isn’t available, consider adding the Redskins or Panthers.

Availability: Owned in ~80% of leagues.
Forecast guidance: The Jets are worth a start this week against the Chiefs.

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